TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Case Keenum threw for 457 yards and five touchdowns, Patrick Edwards had 181 yards receiving and four scores and No. 8 Houston earned a spot in the Conference USA championship game by beating Tulsa 48-16 on Friday.
The Cougars (12-0, 8-0) set a school season record by winning their 12th game. The 12 straight wins also match the school’s longest winning streak, set over the 1990 and ’91 seasons.
If they can make it 13 in a row in the C-USA title game at home on Dec. 3, against either Southern Mississippi or Marshall, the Cougars will earn their first BCS bid and become from first team from the conference to play in the Bowl Championship Series.
Keenum helped Houston pull away by hooking up with Edwards twice for touchdowns on fourth down in no man’s land. He found Edwards cutting across the field for a 33-yard score on fourth-and-10 in the second quarter, then threw a deep ball to him for a 38-yard TD on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter.
That score came in the midst of 28 straight points by the Cougars.
Edwards broke the school record by surpassing 100 yards receiving for the 16th time in his career and also broke the Conference USA career record for receiving yardage that was held by Rice’s Jarett Dillard.
It figured to be the toughest test yet for Houston, facing C-USA’s top defense and a team that also came in without a loss in league play. Tulsa (8-4, 7-1) was allowing only 16 points per game in league play but couldn’t keep up once its offense started sputtering in the second half.
Tulsa got only three points out of two drives with favorable field position in the third quarter. After Curnelius Arnick recovered a fumbled exchange between Keenum and running back Charles Sims, the Golden Hurricane got only 1 yard before settling for Kevin Fitzpatrick’s 51-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 20-16.
Tulsa got the ball back again at midfield but again failed to get a first down and punted the ball back to set up an 80-yard scoring drive by the Cougars capped by Edwards’ 38-yard score.
Michael Hayes added a 1-yard plunge that had to be reviewed before Houston was awarded a touchdown, and Keenum tacked on an 8-yard TD pass to Justin Johnson set up by Edwards’ 51-yard reception.
Edwards’ final score came on a 14-yard pass from backup Cotton Turner, who replaced Keenum following G.J. Kinne’s interception with 6:55 left in the game.
The Cougars celebrated by slapping high-fives with a group of Houston fans that occupied the corner of H.A. Chapman Stadium behind their bench.
Keenum, the nation’s leading passer, recorded the 18th 400-yard game of his career and easily continued his streak of throwing for at least 300 yards in every game this season. A finalist for the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas quarterback awards, he’s also positioning himself for a chance at the Heisman Trophy.
With another impressive day, he now has 42 touchdowns and only three interceptions this season.
Kinne finished with 176 yards, one touchdown pass and two interceptions — both as he tried to rally the Golden Hurricane out of a late deficit against a defense that hasn’t allowed more than seven fourth-quarter points in any game this season.
His only touchdown pass was an 11-yarder to Willie Carter to give the Golden Hurricane an early lead. Fitzpatrick also matched his career-best with a 52-yard field goal that cleared the uprights easily with a steady wind gusting to around 35 mph, and he connected a 36-yarder.
All four of Tulsa’s losses this season have come against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State and Houston.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)